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How to effortlessly potty train your one-year-old  

How to effortlessly potty train your one-year-old  

Do you recognise the situation of being out with your newborn and desperately hoping to come across a toilet, bin or … potted plant? As a Western mommy, chances are you will not. Chinese moms, however, take out their newborns (!) in “kaidangku’s”, slit-bottom pants (no diaper in sight) and teach them to use the toilet on demand while they make whistling or shushing noises. This could be while they hold them over the toilet, sink, bin, or … a potted plant. Eventually, the baby learns to "go" on cue. As a Western mom, I won’t be sharing any newborn potty-training tips but having potty-trained 20-month-old Amelia only recently, I’ve been asked for tips and tricks a lot so I’m happy to share our personal potty-training experiences! 

Our experiences 

Where I’m from we are often praised for the fact that we’re out and about with a 20-month old without a diaper on but it pales in comparison with Chinese “elimination training” my friend told me about after she got back from China! 

Potty training Elliot (now three) was a breeze. We tried at 19 months but came to the conclusion that we were rushing him, said goodbye to the potty for a few weeks and tried again at 21 months. He was dry in a matter of days. A few weeks later we noticed he’d been dry at night three days in a row. We left off his diaper and never looked back. Our experiences with Amelia are similar. At 18 months we gave the potty a shot because we were on holiday in hot Italy but it was too early. We tried again six weeks later and over the course of two weeks she was potty trained. While I’m writing this she’s napping without a diaper. She has the occasional accident but is dry nine out of ten naps. We’re slowly working up our way towards diaper free nights. 

Communicate about pee-pee and poo-poo

You know those moms who are constantly talking and singing to their babies,… I’m one of those,… and turns out that for potty-training this is a good thing! While changing your baby’s diaper talk to him or her about what’s going on. Don’t teach your baby that pee or poop is dirty, instead praise him or her. Teach your child the difference between dry and wet,… all of this will come in handy when you decide to start potty-training.

Timing is everything

When do you decide to start potty-training? Well really, it’s when they decide. Once your toddler starts to communicate about having just peed or pooped or even better announcing it in advance,… it’s your cue to get the potty out. Only start if you’ll be able to see it through though. Are you having a busy week at work? Is there a family party coming up? Then wait. Wait for a week (preferably of vacation) you can fully dedicate to potty-training. We say goodbye to diapers from the get go and I really think it’s key to succeeding. So wait for a stretch of at least three days that you can mostly stay indoors and clean up after your little one.  

Take off all your clothes

We like to train our toddlers without underwear on first. It simplifies going potty and clean up and for some reason, wearing underwear seems to be a next level. So turn up the heating or if you’re lucky and it’s summer, let your baby run around naked and have your all-purpose cleaner and paper towel ready.

Cold Turkey

We cut all day-time ties with diapers right away. I don’t believe in pull-ups, I think they keep a child from experiencing what wet pants feel like and consequently don’t activate them to avoid that. And yes, we go to the store without a diaper on. Not on the first day – I don’t have a death wish! I try to pretty much stay in or close to the house the first three days or so and then we venture outdoors. Yes, those first times are exciting but you want to be consequent and teach your toddler that no diaper during the day, means no diaper during the day. 


Take a look at your toddler’s routine and fit in a few potty moments. At our house, for example, we always go potty before having a snack, lunch or dinner, before and after nap- and bedtime and before we leave the house. Sometimes Amelia won’t have to go but I’ll remind her anyways and now she knows the routine too. When I announce snack-time she runs to the potty or proudly announces she doesn’t have to go. In the early days I try to remind my kids every hour or so and when we arrive at someone else’s house, I’ll still tell them where the bathroom is as a gentle reminder. (Tip: don’t ask a toddler if he/she has to go,… they can’t help themselves and will say no. Instead suggest going potty.)

All on board

Communicate to other caregivers about your approach. I’m off on Fridays for example, so I trained Amelia throughout the weekend and then on Monday and Tuesday she went to day-care where they continued to follow her up. By Thursday, when she goes to either my mom’s or B’s mom’s, she was wearing underwear out and about and was only having the occasional accident. 

Take your toddler shopping

I never really thought this through at the time but now, while writing this article, I think it was a good idea of going underwear shopping together. Elliot got to pick out his favorite undies and a few weeks ago Amelia was so excited to take home a set of colorful underwear. (Tip: stack up, you’ll want to have extras lying around the house, in your car, at the day-care,… 

Abort mission, abort

I was given the advice that you can only retreat from potty-training once. We did that with both Elliot and Amelia. Both of them were talking about their diaper content a lot and were pulling it off when it was wet, so it gave me the impression they were ready. In comes the potty. Amelia seemed a natural at first, she peed on the first try! Hoorays all around. Flash forward a few hours and she had cluelessly peed and pooped her way through the entire Italian camping ground. So we decided to leave out the potty, but not actively pursue potty-training. We put it away once we were back home. A month later, she grasped the concept of  the potty much better. She still had accidents but she told me about them or started to cry or looked surprised. 

Cloth diapers

Not sure if it has anything to do with it, but both Elliot and Amelia wore cloth diapers part-time and I sometimes wonder if maybe that’s why they’re relatively early in toilet-training. Want to know more? Read my blogpost “6 eye-opening reasons to get excited about cloth diapers now”. 

What about the nights?

Pretty much immediately after launching into potty-training, Amelia was dry during naps. Moreover she refused to put on a diaper before bedtime. So I thought, … let’s go for the whole works. I bought disposable bed covers, placed a second potty beside her bed and put a dimmed nightlight within reach. The first night she was up every hour or two calling me to go potty. The second night was better, she woke me up once to successfully go potty but had peed her pants by morning. Although I was very proud of her, there wasn’t much improvement and after a week I decided to force her to wear a diaper again. I do, however, always take her out of bed to pee if she wakes me. I can’t be sending her the message that peeing in a diaper on purpose is ever ok.

It’s been a month now and besides the very occasional accident, she is a big girl during the day. During her nap I put a special cover on her bed and at night she wears a diaper. We have cut down her milk intake right before bed though (she is a very good eater, so her bottle is more of a routine than actual nutrition) and she goes potty downstairs before having her bottle and upstairs right before bed. Her diaper is wet in the mornings (not soaking wet though) but she does wake up for her morning peepee. 

Life after diapers is the easiest, so if your child is ready - no matter what age - just dive in! I’d love to hear about your potty-training experiences! Let’s continue the conversation on mommoiselle_com. 


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